Maintaining timely payments on credit card bills can positively impact your credit score, making it easier to qualify for future loans. Beginner's credit cards, with low or no annual fees, can help establish a limited credit history and offer rewards. Starting your credit-building journey early is crucial; there's no better time than now to apply for a credit card. Choosing the suitable beginner's card can be challenging, but a list of top recommendations can help guide you on the right path.
Which are the Best Credit Cards?
The credit cards mentioned here are excellent choices for individuals who are relatively inexperienced with credit. They may be accessible to those with limited credit histories and offer uncomplicated rewards and additional advantages that incentivize your everyday spending.
Best for flexible rewards
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an ideal starter credit card. It offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, providing extra benefits like purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. Additionally, you earn 5% cash back on travel purchases through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining, and 3% at drugstores. You can also convert cash back to Chase Ultimate Rewards points for more flexibility. The card has an exceptional welcome bonus: unlimited cash back match in your first year.
Best for travel benefits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is an excellent choice for those starting to earn travel rewards despite its $95 annual fee. With this card, you earn 2 points per dollar on travel (or 5 points on travel through Ultimate Rewards), 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and select online grocery purchases, 5 points per dollar on Lyft (until March 2025), and 1 point per dollar on all other spending.
Notably, the card accumulates premium Chase Ultimate Reward points, expanding your redemption options. Points can be used in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a fixed value of 1.25 cents per point or transferred to Chase's 14 airline and hotel partners, offering higher redemption values. The card provides comprehensive purchase and travel protection benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, lost baggage coverage, and primary rental car coverage when you pay for travel with the Sapphire Preferred.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Best for flexible travel rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is an excellent choice for those interested in travel rewards without the hassle of award availability. It offers a straightforward 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, with each mile worth 1 cent when redeemed for travel, effectively providing a 2% return on all spending.
Redeeming miles is easy; just book your travel as usual and pay with the Venture card, then redeem your miles within 90 days to offset the purchase cost. As you become more familiar with frequent-flyer programs, you can transfer miles to Capital One's 18 travel partners. The card comes with a $95 annual fee. It provides benefits like a $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, purchase protection, extended warranty, travel accident insurance, secondary rental car coverage, lost baggage coverage, and no foreign transaction fees.
Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Best for cash back
The Citi® Double Cash Card is our top choice for cash-back credit cards, offering a strong 2% cash-back rate (1% when you make purchases and 1% when you pay your statement) without an annual fee. It's straightforward, with no complex rewards programs or category bonuses; simply use the card and enjoy cash back on your spending.
While it lacks some of the protection benefits found on other cards, it provides an extended 18-month 0% APR period for balance transfers (variable 19.24% to 29.24% after the introductory offer ends) for new cardmembers, potentially saving on interest charges when paying off existing debt.
Despite being marketed as cash back, the card earns Citi ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for cash back or transferred to a select number of travel partners. When combined with a premium Citi ThankYou Rewards credit card like the Citi Premier® Card, you can merge your accounts and transfer points to 16 partner airline or hotel loyalty programs.
Note: The card currently does not offer a welcome bonus.
Best for 0% APR
If you're facing a financial pinch and need to manage significant purchases over time without incurring interest, consider a starter credit card with a 0% introductory purchase APR. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a no-annual-fee option that provides a 0% interest rate on purchases for 15 months (variable APR of 19.24% to 29.99% after that). It also offers cash-back rewards on every purchase.
This card earns 3% cash back as a statement credit at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and on U.S. online shopping purchases (up to $6,000 annually, then 1% cash back). Other purchases earn 1% cash back. You can earn up to $284 in statement credits per year, including Home Chef and Disney Bundle Subscription credits.
While it lacks additional benefits, the card does offer car rental loss and damage insurance. For those with substantial supermarket expenses, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express might be a better fit, offering 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, among other rewards. This card also provides a 0% APR for the first 12 months on new purchases.
Welcome bonus: Earn $200 cash back (as a statement credit) after spending $2,000 on your new card within the first six months.
Best for where you spend the most
The Citi Custom Cash Card is ideal for optimizing cash back where you spend the most. It offers 5% cash back in your top eligible categories each month, up to $500 per billing cycle, then 1% cash back. These categories cover common expenditures like gas, dining, groceries, travel, transit, streaming, drugstores, home improvement, fitness, and entertainment. You don't need to preselect a category; Citi automatically identifies your top spending area. Plus, like the Citi Double Cash card, you can convert earned points to travel partners with a premium Citi ThankYou Rewards card, expanding your travel redemption options.
Welcome bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash by spending $1,500 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
In conclusion, starting your credit-building journey with a starter credit card is smart. These cards can enhance your credit score and unlock numerous credit card benefits if managed responsibly. Chase offers attractive options, including the travel-focused Chase Sapphire Preferred and the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex. Citi provides excellent choices like the cash-back-focused Citi Double Cash and Citi Custom Cash. The Capital One Venture is appealing for flexible travel rewards and the Bilt Mastercard rewards renters. Meanwhile, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express allows interest-free balance carrying.
If you lack a credit history, consider a financial tailored to your situation, whether for bad credit, no credit, or a student credit card, to start your credit journey with the help of Bright Money Now!
For further insights into managing your finances and debt, consider reading these related blogs from Bright Money:
- Should I pay my credit card bill as soon as I get it?
- How do credit card balance transfers work?
- Record-breaking credit card debt and the summer of 2022
- Buy Now, Pay Later: Worth it or not in 2022?
- What is the Rule of 72?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Which is the best credit card to begin with?
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an ideal starter credit card. It offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, providing extra benefits like purchase protection and extended warranty coverage.
- Does the Citi® Double Cash Card offer a welcome bonus?
The card currently does not provide a welcome bonus. Still, it gives an extended 18-month 0% APR period for balance transfers (variable 19.24% to 29.24% after the introductory offer ends) for new cardmembers, potentially saving on interest charges when paying off existing debt.
- What are the parameters before selecting a credit card?
Consider factors such as annual fees, interest rates (APR), rewards or cash-back programs, credit limits, and any introductory offers.